Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the most essential part of website marketing. Without a clear and ongoing SEO strategy your website risks being overlooked by all your potential customers and clients. Happily there are tools and methods available to help.
This post doesn’t just describe 7 reasons why General Aviation businesses fail but also why they fail to prosper and grow.
Over the past six months I’ve contacted hundreds of flying schools, clubs, and commercial flight training companies in the UK, Europe, and North America.
Far too many that were in business a few years ago have since ceased trading (if you run a directory listing aviation companies you’ll know it needs frequent updates!).
I’ve visited their websites, given them a call, and sent follow-up emails. I’m left with the impression that many of those that remain hang by a thread.
They operate on narrow margins at the mercy of the weather and the economic climate.
As well as the variables that affect many other types of business they also have to contend with threats of airfield closures. The insatiable demand for housing and the fact that airfields have been wrongly categorised as brownfield sites means they are beset from all sides.
However, in far too many cases there is evidence that flying schools undermine themselves by neglecting areas over which they have complete control.
In the following seven sections I make no apologies for stating the obvious. If you think none of these apply then congratulations, your establishment is probably be a well known name in aviation with a first class reputation.
Others, on the other hand, seem to be winging it, if you’ll excuse the pun. I present these points in the form of constructive criticism and hope that they will inspire change, development, and progress.
Reasons why General Aviation businesses fail
1. Bad, broken, and boring websites
Some have modern, responsive websites that look appealing and information on mobile, tablet, and desktop. They draw the visitor in with imaginative use of images, slideshows, and video.
The information about flying lessons and gift vouchers is easily found and the contact details is within easy reach.
Others on the other hand have no website at all, or a single outdated page, or something that was thrown online in a hurry. Even if there is a complete website it is often outdated and sometimes showing code errors or worse, evidence of malware.
There’s really no excuse for this. It’s so easy to put up professional looking website. I can only guess that it’s down to time.
Suggestion: Set aside time and resources to review and update your site. It’s your online brochure. It’s a source of information for potential customers. It’s a showcase for satisfied clients and their testimonials. Audit the website for data integrity, accuracy, and search engine optimisation.
2. Dormant, wasted social media accounts.
Some aviation companies make good use of social media. They’ve learnt how to use this tool to great effect.
But sadly these are the minority. There are companies with good websites don’t use social media well and vice versa.
A good website is promising but sometimes the social media links lead to dormant accounts. One I visited was still linking to the website creator’s social media accounts.
Most social media is free but you do have to put the effort in to use it well. If you’re not prepared to put in the effort then don’t open the accounts. Close those you’re not using and remove the links.
On the other hand, use social media consistently and build relationships. Eventually your efforts will be rewarded.
Suggestion: Choose one or two social media types and get busy becoming an expert in that method. Think about your target market when deciding what types to use. Delegate this task to someone in your team who will become your nominated social media specialist, posting and responding in good time and at optimal times.
3. “There’s no one here to take your call”
Someone has picked up the phone to enquire about flight training or gift vouchers. What impression will your staff or answering service provide?
Some business I’ve called have a professional telephone manner. The immediate impression is that you’re talking to someone who is alert, keen, and ready to help.
Others sound as if they’ve been interrupted while doing something more interesting than answering calls.
Of course, there may be busy times when flying and operational activity take up all available hands. In which case there should be some sort of answering machine.
I’ve called some during business hours only to hear a crackling answer machine with a barely audible message.
Suggestion: Remind everyone answering the phones of the importance of first impressions. Smile when you speak (it really does make a difference). Invest in a new answering machine with a pleasant recorded greeting that mentions opening hours and alternative methods of contact.
4. Your staff don’t know how to sell
Someone calls to enquire about trial flights. Are you confident the person answering the phone stands a good chance of closing a sale?
Someone books the flight and all goes well. Are you confident the Instructor has the skills to convince the trainee to sign up for a PPL course?
Your student completes PPL. Regardless of flying skills of the FI and CFI how good are they at selling additional ratings, self-fly hire, aircraft sales, maintenance and storage?
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. New customers and retention of existing customers are essential.
Unfortunately, sales and selling still seem a bit of a tacky subject to some. It’s as if they can’t shake off impression that being a salesman or woman is a bit unethical.
Well, you’re not running a corner shop or a supermarket. Your staff are not there to sit at the check-out waiting for people to decide on what to buy. You’re all going to have to develop your powers of persuasion and learn to sell.
Suggestion: Put some time aside for team meetings and basic training in sales. All members of staff can participate in this exercise. Presumably you love flying so you’re already half way there. All you have to do is learn how to convey that enthusiasm to your prospective clients and convince them that now is the time for that next lesson.
5. You don’t diversify so there’s unexploited assets
We all know what a detrimental effect the weather can have on takings, but if the aircraft are stuck on the ground is there some other way to generate income? If it’s not something you can charge for could it generate leads that turn into sales?
An untidy and unkempt premises not only makes a poor impression on your visitors but becomes a depressing place to work.
You don’t have to call in a feng-shui expert or an interior designer (although both can help if you can afford them) but you can tidy up and give the place a lick of paint once in a while.
Upgrade the snack bar or cafe and draw in passing trade. Everyone has to eat and drink.
Put on talks, film or quiz nights open all and advertise locally.
Turn spare space into a flight sim area.
Clear the clutter and free up storage space to create new work areas.
Sub-let unused space to local small businesses.
6. You have no long term plan for growth
Are you so busy with the day to day tasks that it’s been months since you gave any thought to medium and long term planning?
Where do you want your business to be in one, three, or five years time?
If you’re run ragged doing everything yourself isn’t time you planned for some advertising for new staff, interviewing, recruitment, and training?
Have you updated your business plan to account for rising prices, interest rates, and sales figures over the coming 12-24 months?
Suggestions: Set aside time to collate the information and work on your plan. There are plenty of free resources online so just google for them. Set your goals and remind your staff about them repeatedly. Start thinking and acting like a bigger organisation and you’ll grow into the vision.
7. You have no marketing strategy
There are several reasons why people don’t think about their marketing strategy
They don’t need to. Congratulations, you’ve got a full order book, but have you got a back-up plan if your steady stream of customers dries up?
They do what they’ve always done out of habit. Those adverts seem to bring in enough, for now. But do they work? Could you use more business?
They don’t know what’s available. Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, YouTube etc – not much good if you don’t know how to to use them.
They don’t like taking risks with new methods. They have tried and failed or heard of others who have been burned with new techniques.
Suggestions: Your business should have a marketing strategy that takes account of the variations of light and season throughout the entire year. You should plan well ahead to take advantage of seasonal holidays.
YouTube Video Marketing
Over the past few months I’ve been helping aviation businesses harness the potential of YouTube video marketing.
If you spend a few hundred pounds on print advertising or PPC like Google Adwords the money is spent even if it generates new leads and a few sales.
But for the price of one print advert (£200+) I can make you a YouTube video that remains online, on your website, and on you Facebook page indefinitely.
I’ll optimise it for searches and broadcast the link repeatedly in my social media accounts.
For a single payment you’ll receive an infomercial that can be used repeatedly in several ways.
Contact me now and let’s talk about how we can generate new leads and sales using YouTube.
Every webmaster would like to see his/her site in the top ten results on Google for their chosen keywords or key phrases and they would like that ranking to remain there permanently. To a greater or lesser degree they work hard to achieve this result because they know that search engines judge a site’s popularity by the amount of other sites that link to it, provided that the content and subject matter of the linking site has something in common with the website in question. Our LinkAssistant review explains why we use this SEO tool for some of our link building.
If you’re trying to build links then LinkAssistant is a tool that will help you to do so in many ways. Even if you start your link building project off with a lot of enthusiasm there’s a good chance the process will wear you down and you’ll grow bored of it, but you should press on because it does eventually work, and you should use a tool that makes the task as painless as possible.
The LinkAssistant SEO tool contains an impressive collection of features that make the job of link building so much easier. Here are a few examples of what the tool can do:
– Find dozens, scores, hundreds, or even thousands of potential link partners by entering a few details and letting the tool do the work. I recommend starting off with a small selection first. Choose high ranking sites that might link back to you.
– Your link partners might one day delete the backlink to you either by accident, in a site re-design, or for some other reason, so it’s important that you keep a check on your partners. The tool can automatically check all those reciprocal links for you and will let you know which are missing.
– Keep a check on your site’s ranking for the key phrases for which you are competing. It will display the results in a numeric or graphical format in a matter of minutes. Check every few weeks and if you’ve done your homework and used the tool wisely then you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of watching your ranking increase.
LinkAssistant has been designed to work on most computers, so whether you’re a Mac, Windows, or Linux user there’s a copy for you. We’d all like to see our sites succeed organically by appearing in the top ten results when people search for a given term. LinkAssistant is a tool that can help you to achieve that ambition.
Anyone who has built a commercial website or paid someone to build one for them has had to tackle the problem of how to attract traffic to that site in order to make sales and sell products and services. Sooner or later they discover that it’s possible to pay for advertising in one form or another, or spend the budget on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) with the intention of making their site rank high enough for certain search terms that they attract traffic (visitors) through search engines. This free SEO ebook explains the basics.
Website visitors are potential customers so if the site attracts enough visitors and the site is well designed then the desired result should manifest. You can pay SEO consultants to optimise your site for you or you can do it yourself. If you pay someone else it can become very expensive and you may lose control of the project. If, like me, you’ve learned the basics through trial and error and have expended a lot of effort in the process then you’ll probably be glad to know that there’s a free book which explains the process of SEO in a step by step fashion and which is so easy to follow that almost anyone can learn something from it that will help their site rank better and make their business grow.
There is a vast amount of information, discussion, tips and advice out there on the web, and sometimes it can not only be overwhelming but some of it is even contradictory. Here at last then is a book which explains the subject in a step by step methodical manner. Beneath each page is a comments area in which someone has probably already asked the questions you may think of and the answers are provided by the author, Dan Richmond.
As you progress through the book you can try out all the techniques and very soon you’ll develop the feeling that you’re at last in control of your site’s SEO project, and that it is no longer a haphazard affair based on hearsay found in a webmaster’s forum.
Did I mention that this is a free SEO book? There’s no catch, no mailing list that emails you every week, just plenty of good advice. The author explains each stage of the process and will recommend both freely available tools and methods as well as his company’s own SEO tools, but you always have a choice between which you decide to use.
However, as even the commercial tools have evaluation versions it’s worth trying them out so that you can see first hand that they are by far the quickest and most efficient method of researching keywords, auditing sites, checking the ranking, and creating backlinks to your sites.
So you’ve carefully planned, designed your site and added fresh and original content. You’ve persuaded other webmasters to add backlinks to your site using specific anchor texts and your site now ranks reasonably highly, but it’s not doing as well as you had hoped. Here’s our WebSite Auditor review which lists the reasons why we use this versatile SEO tool.
Perhaps you were ranking high enough to satisfy you or your boss, but lately the visitor numbers have inexplicably dropped and you find yourself looking at Google Analytics results in which the trend is very definitely downwards. What have you missed? Where are your site’s weak areas?
WebSite Auditor aims to answer these questions and more besides. The developers of this tool took on board the fact that Google’s ranking algorithm changes over time and that consequently website owners adjust their sites in order comply with those changes in order to maintain their hard earned high ranking. So far so good, but who has the time and resources to keep up with all these changes?
Even if your company is big enough and rich enough to pay someone or a team of people to keep abreast of all the changes and to work on website development full time, wouldn’t you like to have a tool which automated that kind of research and thereby freed up you or your resources for more creative output? Wouldn’t you rather be creating new content for your site than research algorithms?
WebSite Auditor will examine the top ten ranking sites for your chosen keywords and report back to you with the information it has gathered by creating a report which is logically and methodically laid out. You’ll then be able see why those sites are in the top ten while yours is still on page two of the results. The tool presents you with the tips and changes you can make to your site to push it on to page one. Think of this tool as your own SEO consultant, but at the fraction of the price of a human SEO specialist.
WebSite Auditor will suggest all kinds of changes that will improve your site’s ranking for a given keyword or phrase. These include the keyword density on your homepage, the text in your headlines, the alternative text in your image code, and other tweaks that may see minor but which all add up to improved rankings. It will highlight the problem areas and point out the mistakes you’ve missed. It’s a fresh pair of eyes that sees what you’ve overlooked and probably knows more about what works and what is wasted effort. It tells you when you’ve done too little or too much and advises you on how to get the balance just right.
You don’t need to be an HTML guru either. This tool has been designed in such way that bloggers, small business website owners, copywriters and anyone else who uses websites and blogs (but who doesn’t know much about the code that creates them) can put the suggestions it makes into practice and thereby bring their sites to the attention of their target audiences.
Unless you’re fortunate and clever enough to have thought of some product or service that has little or no competition then your website will be competing against some or many others for the attention of your target market. If you’ve done your research you will already know who the major competitors are and you might also have poured over their websites to see how they’ve designed them. Our SEO SpyGlass review explains a little about the tool we use to do some of that research.
Perhaps you’ve simply looked at the HTML source code of their pages or even visited every page of the site in order to gain an overall picture of how their site works and why it’s ranking higher than yours in the organic search engine results.
You’ll also be aware of the importance of backlinks to your site, but not just any old links that contain your site name or URL as the anchor text. What really counts are links for which the anchor text is one of the key phrases for which you are trying to rank highly.
For example, if your company is called Joe Doe Inc. and you sell mainly wireless routers then you need backlinks that look like this: Wireless Routers from Joe Doe Inc.. If you can succeed in persuading other webmasters to add such links then you’re well on the way to increasing your site’s ranking for those key phrases, but how many do you need? 10? 100?. This is the question that SEO SpyGlass was designed to answer.
SEO SpyGlass exams a competitors website, finds the backlinks and tells you which keywords and phrases are being used as the anchor text in the links to that site. It’s perfectly legitimate and there’s nothing underhand about it as this information is in the public domain. You could spend hours collating it for yourself or pay an SEO consultant to do it for you, or you could invest once in a tool that will do it again and again for a fraction of the price of a consultant’s fee and which frees you up from the time consuming task of doing the research manually.
However, the information this tool can provide doesn’t just include a list of links and anchor text phrases. It also shows the Google, page rank, the Alexa traffic rank, number of links by IP address, keyword density, links from forums, blogs and social media, the link values and the age of the websites that link back. Armed with this knowledge you can develop an SEO strategy which will move your site up the ranking table into a prime position in which to attract all that desirable organic traffic that results from people searching using the keywords and phrases that are the essence of your site’s products or services.